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Twenty years ago, says Gudberg, Icelandic teens were among the heaviest-drinking youths in Europe. “You couldn’t walk the streets in downtown Reykjavik on a Friday night because it felt unsafe,” adds Milkman. “There were hordes of teenagers getting in-your-face drunk.”
Today, Iceland tops the European table for the cleanest-living teens. The percentage of 15- and 16-year-olds who had been drunk in the previous month plummeted from 42 per cent in 1998 to 5 per cent in 2016. The percentage who have ever used cannabis is down from 17 per cent to 7 per cent. Those smoking cigarettes every day fell from 23 per cent to just 3 per cent.
The way the country has achieved this turnaround has been both radical and evidence-based, but it has relied a lot on what might be termed enforced common sense. “This is the most remarkably intense and profound study of stress in the lives of teenagers that I have ever seen,” says Milkman. “I’m just so impressed by how well it is working.”
In the early 1970s, when he was doing an internship at the Bellevue Psychiatric Hospital in New York City, “'___' was already in, and a lot of people were smoking marijuana. And there was a lot of interest in why people took certain drugs.”
Milkman’s doctoral dissertation concluded that people would choose either heroin or amphetamines depending on how they liked to deal with stress. Heroin users wanted to numb themselves; amphetamine users wanted to actively confront it. After this work was published, he was among a group of researchers drafted by the US National Institute on Drug Abuse to answer questions such as: why do people start using drugs? Why do they continue? When do they reach a threshold to abuse? When do they stop? And when do they relapse?
Any college kid could say: why do they start? Well, there’s availability, they’re risk-takers, alienation, maybe some depression,” he says. “But why do they continue? So I got to the question about the threshold for abuse and the lights went on – that’s when I had my version of the ‘aha’ experience: they could be on the threshold for abuse before they even took the drug, because it was their style of coping that they were abusing.”
At Metropolitan State College of Denver, Milkman was instrumental in developing the idea that people were getting addicted to changes in brain chemistry. Kids who were “active confronters” were after a rush – they’d get it by stealing hubcaps and radios and later cars, or through stimulant drugs. Alcohol also alters brain chemistry, of course. It’s a sedative but it sedates the brain’s control first, which can remove inhibitions and, in limited doses, reduce anxiety.
“People can get addicted to drink, cars, money, sex, calories, coc aine – whatever,” says Milkman. “The idea of behavioural addiction became our trademark.”
“Why not orchestrate a social movement around natural highs: around people getting high on their own brain chemistry – because it seems obvious to me that people want to change their consciousness – without the deleterious effects of drugs?”
By 1992, his team in Denver had won a $1.2 million government grant to form Project Self-Discovery, which offered teenagers natural-high alternatives to drugs and crime. They got referrals from teachers, school nurses and counsellors, taking in kids from the age of 14 who didn’t see themselves as needing treatment but who had problems with drugs or petty crime.
“We didn’t say to them, you’re coming in for treatment. We said, we’ll teach you anything you want to learn: music, dance, hip hop, art, martial arts.” The idea was that these different classes could provide a variety of alterations in the kids’ brain chemistry, and give them what they needed to cope better with life: some might crave an experience that could help reduce anxiety, others may be after a rush.
At the same time, the recruits got life-skills training, which focused on improving their thoughts about themselves and their lives, and the way they interacted with other people. “The main principle was that drug education doesn’t work because nobody pays attention to it. What is needed are the life skills to act on that information,” Milkman says. Kids were told it was a three-month programme. Some stayed five years.
John Taylor Gatto (born December 15, 1935) is an American author and former school teacher who taught in the classroom for nearly 30 years. He devoted much of his energy to his teaching career, then, following his resignation, authored several books on modern education, criticizing its ideology, history, and consequences. He is best known for the underground classic Dumbing Us Down: the Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling, and The Underground History of American Education: A Schoolteacher’s Intimate Investigation Into the Problem of Modern Schooling, which is sometimes considered to be his magnum opus. He was named New York City Teacher of the Year in 1989, 1990, and 1991, and New York State Teacher of the Year in 1991
originally posted by: the2ofusr1
a reply to: underwerks
The same could be said about the justice system as well . Our society takes a small criminal and puts them in a environment (punishment) that makes a hard core criminal when they are released and more then likely to return through the system . Its self perpetuating .
originally posted by: jellyrev
Basically a City state with a homogeneous society that already had extremely low crime rates and an extremely incorruptible government and intact family structures.
originally posted by: the2ofusr1
a reply to: underwerks
My Dad did 3 bits in Federal Prisons so I know quite a bit about it .
I was shocked to learn that 11 percent of all alcohol consumption n the US is due to underage drinking.
originally posted by: Aliensun
a reply to: cuckooold
Iceland has a population of only 331 thousand, less than many major cities elsewhere in the world. Plus, it is more remote from the drug dealers and obtaining drugs is not so easy. Poverty, employment, culture and family life are enormous factors that drive kids to drugs and alcohol. So, yes, let us try systems that work, but what works in Iceland probably won't cut it in the inner cities or the growing number of drug use in the smaller towns across America.